Duke’s NCAA Tournament ouster ends tumultuous run for bettors
Duke’s NCAA Tournament ouster ends tumultuous run for bettors
Bettors will remember the 2018-19 Duke team for its wallet-thinning run to end the season, including an 0-4 against the spread record in the NCAA Tournament.
Duke is dead, and the tumultuous ride for bettors is over. Perhaps it's fitting that the Blue Devils (32-6 straight up, 18-20 against the spread), one of the worst ATS teams among this year's NCAA Tournament contenders, would see their season end at the hands of 2.5-point underdog Michigan State (32-6, 27-11), a team with the same SU record but the second-best ATS mark in the nation. It's even more fitting how Mike Krzyzewski's team lost: by one point, on an unlucky bounce after benefiting from two lucky ones to reach the Elite Eight. Duke bettors have been sweating out results all season long. Let's take a look back at the winding road and sudden end for the tourney's top seed: ## High ride for early investors It seems like lunacy now, but Duke was an underdog in its first game of the season, catching 2 points against Kentucky, another eventual Elite Eight team The Blue Devils ran roughshod over the Wildcats in a [118-84 win](http://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/game?gameId=401082669), Kentucky's worst loss in the John Calipari era. Zion Williamson announced his presence on the national stage, scoring 28 points in 23 minutes on 11-of-13 shooting. Oh, and throwing down this two-hander: <a href="https://youtu.be/AzkkRFhPMmw" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="0">Embedded content: https://youtu.be/AzkkRFhPMmw</a> It sparked a strong start for Duke, which won its first five games (3-2 ATS) before losing at Gonzaga, another Elite Eight contender. Then, Zion and Co. ripped off nine straight (7-2 ATS), a run that started with six straight UNDERs, heading into the thick of the ACC schedule. At that point, the Blue Devils were 14-1 SU / 10-5 ATS, and oddsmakers couldn't jack the point spread high enough to match the traveling band of freshman phenoms in Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones. A strange home loss to Syracuse (+17) was a minor blip, but Duke outlasted Virginia (+3.5) in a top-five primetime matchup that sent spread bettors into a fury with a ["meaningless" buzzer-beater](https://www.betchicago.com/duke-virginia-deandre-hunter-bad-beat) that cost the Blue Devils an ATS win. __MORE:__ [Virginia's De'Andre Hunter gives Blue Devils a brutal bad beat](https://www.betchicago.com/duke-virginia-deandre-hunter-bad-beat) Duke kept chugging along, winning another five games (4-1 ATS) with five UNDERs, too. In the sixth game, the nation's best team trounced Virginia (-2) on the road to complete the season sweep. If the Blue Devils could cover a 24-point spread vs. Boston College and beat Virginia on the road in consecutive games...what couldn't they do? ## The Louisville comeback + ShoeGate For a moment, Duke looked purely vincible. On Feb. 12, No. 16 Louisville (+7.5), coming off a pair of frustrating losses, led the No. 2 Blue Devils, 59-36, deep into the second half. Barrett wasn't himself, Williamson was in foul trouble, and nothing was going Duke's way. Until EVERYTHING went Duke's way. Reddish buried a triple with 9:07 remaining in the second half to kick off a historic run that saw Duke erase a [23-point deficit](https://www.betchicago.com/duke-stunning-comeback-at-louisville-live-line-bettors-win) and shatter the spirit of Louisville, which lost its next four ATS and went on to flame out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Still, it was a warning sign for Duke bettors. The Louisville game was the first of three straight ATS losses, tying Duke's longest streak to that point. The final game of that run was a [crippling home loss](https://www.betchicago.com/zion-williamson-knee-injury-duke-title-odds) to North Carolina (+10) that saw Williamson sprain his knee after his shoe broke on national TV. Surely you remember, but here it is one more time: <a href="https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1098404362148208640" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="0">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1098404362148208640</a> From that point, Duke bettors were on high alert. That included moneyline bettors, who lost outright at Virginia Tech (+3.5) and [needed a friendly roll](https://www.betchicago.com/college-basketball-betting-recap-duke-nearly-loses-to-underdog-wake-march-5) against Wake Forest (+24.5) in a sign of things to come: <a href="https://twitter.com/espn/status/1103119600303124481" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="0">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/espn/status/1103119600303124481</a> A rematch with UNC (-4.5) didn't go much better in a [79-70 loss](https://www.betchicago.com/duke-at-unc-betting-recap-tar-heels-clinch-acc-share-sweep-blue-devils) that wasn't that close. Another [near loss](https://www.betchicago.com/college-basketball-betting-recap-march-15) to the Tar Heels (+4.5) in the ACC Tournament left bettors wondering: Can Duke be trusted in the Big Dance? ## Tournament woes strike again The Blue Devils went 1-3 ATS in the ACC Tournament but showed enough to earn the top seed in the NCAA Tournament. They took the ACC title thanks to a [bounceback effort](https://www.betchicago.com/college-basketball-betting-recap-auburn-florida-bad-beat) against Florida State (+7). And with Zion at full strength, Duke's [title odds reopened on Selection Sunday at 2/1](https://www.betchicago.com/ncaa-tournament-2019-odds-duke-unc-favorite), significantly shorter than any other team in the field. Playing Duke at the short price turned out to be a fool's bet. In the first round of the tournament, No. 16 seed North Dakota State (+27.5) built an early lead and left moneyline backers hyperventilating before Duke turned it on late -- too late for spread bettors in an 85-62 win. In the second round, Central Florida (+13) seemingly stood no chance in a likely statement game for the Blue Devils. Yet 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall led the No. 9 seed Knights to a [late lead](https://www.betchicago.com/ncaa-tournament-2019-betting-recap-tennessee-iowa-sunday-second-round) before Williamson willed his way to an and-one opportunity and Barrett put back his missed free throw for a one-point lead. Remember that Wake Forest shot that somehow rimmed out? Try two of those in the final seconds: <a href="https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1109961894176022529?s=19" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="0">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1109961894176022529?s=19</a> No. 4 seed Virginia Tech (+7) [had its shot in the Sweet 16](https://www.betchicago.com/sweet-16-betting-north-carolina-auburn-duke-vt-msu-lsu-houston-kentucky), and surely Duke wouldn't survive *two straight games* on near buzzer-beaters...right? <a href="https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1111840764382707715" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="0">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1111840764382707715</a> Those three tournament wins were all ATS losses, but the public backed the Blue Devils as short favorites against a Michigan State team with less talent than usual. Duke went off a 2.5-point favorite. It wasn't to be. Both sides manufactured big first-half runs, giving way to a back-and-forth second half that drove live bettors into a tizzy. And in an all-too-fitting end, the final bounce [didn't go Duke's way](https://www.betchicago.com/elite-eight-betting-recap-auburn-kentucky-final-four). With a chance to tie, Barrett missed the first of two free throws with six seconds left. Then, needing a miss to have a chance at a tying score: <a href="https://twitter.com/TheFlightMike/status/1112491997909012480" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="0">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/TheFlightMike/status/1112491997909012480</a> It was that kind of season for Duke bettors. After sweeping Virginia, the Blue Devils couldn't string together back-to-back ATS wins in their final 15 games. They finished 1-8 ATS in their final nine games, with zero covers in the tournament. And for the third straight time, the nation's top recruiting class failed to reach the Final Four. The only thing Duke bettors could rely on? The UNDER, which hit 69.4% of the time, sixth-best in the NCAA. ## What does it means for next year, beyond? Duke finished the year covering 47.4% of its games -- worst among Elite Eight teams and second-worst in the Sweet 16 field. Since winning the national title in 2015, Duke is 70-71-3 ATS (49.6%) with three losing seasons for gamblers, the overall mark boosted by last year's 24-14-1 ATS (62.9%) finish. Without last year, the Blue Devils would be covering less than 45% of their games during that time. Duke will likely lose Barrett, Williamson and Reddish -- the top three overall prospects from 2018 -- and replace them with another batch of stars. Five-star recruits Vernon Carey (No. 3 on 247Sports [composite rankings](https://247sports.com/Season/2019-Basketball/CompositeRecruitRankings/?InstitutionGroup=HighSchool)) and Wendell Moore (No. 22) have already committed, while Matthew Hurt (No. 8) and Trendon Watford (No. 27) [could join them](https://balldurham.com/2019/03/29/duke-basketball-two-five-stars-class/), too. But with all the talent that's come through Durham in recent years, it's fair to wonder if it results in Duke being overvalued by the betting market. Even with the Blue Devils taking oddsmakers by surprise early, they still floundered late in the year. And if Williamson, Barrett and Reddish were not enough...what will be? Remember this Duke season for the dunks, the wild finishes, the dramatic stories about [Nike stock](https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/21/business/nike-zion-williamson-shoe-duke/index.html) and the merits of amateurism. That's all well and good. But also remember it for the team's tournament run and tumultuous betting record. Your wallet will thank you later. __MORE:__ [March Madness 2019 coverage](https://www.betchicago.com/ncaa-basketball-betting)2019-04-01T12:53:40.275Z2019-04-01T08:53-04:00